Show Me the Money: What Timing and Integrity Can Do for Business

Remember the Tom Cruise movie “Jerry McGuire”? McGuire left a big firm and started his own business as a sports agent by getting back to basics and building relationships. The character had to bootstrap it for a while, with one client who, in a memorable line, demanded of McGuire, “Show me the money!” McGuire did, one relationship at a time. When the word about his talents got out (by the end of the movie), McGuire’s reputation led to all the clients he needed.

But that was a movie.  In real life, what do relationships mean in business?

According to Diane Helbig, the secret to successful marketing is integrity.  She believes:

“Successful business relationships are based on integrity and honesty…When people feel like someone has fooled them, they are less likely to want to do business with them.”

As small business owners, we are looking for long-term relationships, not one-time interactions where customers buy from us only once and then we wonder why they don’t come back.  Instead of sticking your foot in the door with deception, Helbig,  president of Sieze This Day Coaching, suggests that we “develop sound relationships with people.”

Show Me The Money!

In fact, a low-integrity sales strategy has a high price tag.  You lose money when your reputation drives away repeat business and referrals. You gain when satisfied customers come back . . . and send their friends.  It’s a community thing. Who doesn’t want to have the answer for a friend in need? It’s human nature to help.  And when the solution customers talk about is your product (because of your quality work and integrity), it can mean (long-term) money in your pocket through (long-term) relationships.

Why are some people so helpful?

Given the right set of circumstances, most of us will help friends and strangers alike.  It happens to me (and you) all the time. A nice lady tells me the tiles are half off at the back of Home Depot. Or someone leaves an extra coupon next to a product on the store shelf so that the next customer (me) can find it and get a discount too.  Similarly, in our online lives, our social networks are full of people who help us solve our problems. And when their tips are really good, we tweet it, thank them and tell our friends in real (offline) life.

Maybe we can’t help it.  Yvonne DiVita, founder of the Lip-Sticking Society, which focuses on marketing for women online, says, “We’re hardwired to be social.”

I believe that it’s our nature to connect and to communicate what does and does not work in our lives.  According to DiVita, social networking is recreating the neighborhood as well as resetting our marketing message.  “It seems to me,” she says, “that all these new tools are giving us more reason to return to a past that considered personal stories and personal touches more valuable than marketing-speak of any kind.” In other words, your integrity (or lack of integrity) will tell the story of your business and impact your referral income. People want to know the real story.

But what good is relationship marketing, if you can’t make the sale?

According to Ivana Taylor, founder of DIYMarketers, as people in business, we “assume that our prospects started thinking about” our services and solutions the moment they met us or encountered our product. In reality, she says, they start thinking about the need for a solution “after something interrupted their comfortable routine.” That something is a trigger event.

Said another way, business is about solutions. Problems or trigger events create opportunities for solutions. And the problems in the lives of our (potential) clients happen before they meet us (the trigger is like a pre-sale).

Taylor suggests strategies to get sales by being at the right place at the right time. One is to “target the ‘ponds’ where your ideal customer is most likely to go when they experience this trigger event.” You can find those “ponds” in social networks. Be there. Solve the information problem and make the sale.

But these “ponds” also exist among friends and family. And this where your integrity marketing sells and resells your service.  Become top of mind to your current clients, and they will spread the word at the “pond.”

Integrity and timing are everything in small business.


Jamillah Warner Jamillah Warner (Ms.J), a poet with a passion for business, is a Georgia-based writer and speaker and the Marketing Coordinator at Nobuko Solutions. She also provides marketing and communication quick tips in her getCLEAR! MicroNewsletter.

7 Reactions
  1. LOL at “When people feel like someone has fooled them, they are less likely to want to do business with them.”

    Less likely? Wise people will NOT do business with them ever again!

    The days of businesses that provide bad service or cheap products are numbered because more and more people are learning to use the Internet to do due diligence, search for prior complaints and see how they were handled. Eventually, if you cheat people that knowledge will be so widespread that business will just keep sliding until you go under.

    While many people do not tell many others in person when they get taken advantage of, the ability to write reviews and choose whether to reveal your real name or not is essential to encouraging more people to warn others BEFORE they also get cheated.

    Anonymous reviews often raise valid points and are only anonymous because of fear of retribution. Sites that out bad landlords are a good example of how tenants can help each other. What I would love to see is sites about GOOD landlords because they are gold – hard to find and few and far between. As more people end up renting that never rented before that is going to become important information.

    I regularly encourage people to take the time to write reviews for their favorite small businesses so they do not go under in this economy. This comment links to a post that contains how to do that and links to the most common places that accept reviews like Google Maps, Yahoo Local, Yelp, Merchant Circle, Yellow Pages, etc.

  2. This is great advice, but if you think about it, it’s pretty straight-forward common sense. People like working with people that they like, it’s really that simple. 🙂

  3. Martin Lindeskog

    Jamillah, Have you heard about referral marketing? I recently finished a course called Certified Networker by the Referral Institute in Gothenburg, Sweden. Have you read John Jantsch’s book, The Referral Engine?

  4. One of the most effective things I have learned in networking is to ask “Is there anything I can help you with?” At worst you aren’t any help and they’re still in the same shape they were before you asked. At best you solve their problem and most of the time you can at least offer a little help or direction. Try it yourself.

  5. Just as important as it is to earn the money, it’s important to manage it properly. It’s important to have a streamlined accounting and budgeting system in place. Organization is key.

  6. @Martin haven’t read it but I think I’ll check it out.

    @Danny a good number of advice serves more as a push or reminder. If we apply marketing rules to it, how many impressions do we need before we act on it?

    @Robert I like that. Sincere statements like that have given me a chance to meet and help some really interesting people

    @John “organization is key”

  7. It really depends on the advice; how good it is, and especially how timely. If you’re adding real value, and you’re there for people exactly when they need you, then it doesn’t take that many at all. The trick is catching them at the right moment, which is hard, and is why we tend to need more than the few touch points.